Torture essay plan


  1. Should the absolute legal ban on torture be protected and respected in the face of utilitarian arguments that torture, under certain conditions, may be employed particularly in ticking bomb scenarios? Discuss this question by evaluating the relationship between the concepts of liberty, security and human rights (in light of historical examples and the relevant case-law) and by referring to the opposing arguments on torture. 


“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face-forever”-George Orwell 1984

This essay purports to identify the key strands of the jurisprudential thoughts on the well-known prohibition of torture.

This essay also affirms that the key to deciphering what can be done is that we must first understand the much broader context of analysis- specific cultural/political context.

I am going to tackle in this piece a number of areas of recent discourse on the prohibition,

Does the torture of illegal combatants yield reliable information? is torture an effective and perhaps necessary means of social control? Do the adverse effects of torture outweigh the benefits? Is the torturing of terror suspects legal? And ultimately can the use of torture by democratic states and UN members ever be justifiable?

I will conclude the essay by assessing the challenges posed by the prohibition of torture in the post 9/11 context.

Writing this article in a time as the troops are pulling out of Iraq and an emergence of claims of inhumane and degrading treatment against the armed British forces is starting to spin the cogs of the debate on torture and ill-treatment.

  • -Outline the current trends in torture, the anxieties people feel in regard to it, public attitudes etc-back this up with empirical data and surveys.
  • - Explain how I am going to approach the subject, that it requires some fresh thinking, that it requires a realistic viewpoint, it is not enough to stand on polar ends of the argument because that does not address the current pressing issue
  • -We need to look at ways to minimise the risk and potentially face up to the fact that torture may never be abolished.
  • - Rumsfeld- Not just a few “bad apples” but is becoming more and more institutionalised as the days pass and is being adopted as common practice by most countries that are signatories to the treaty.

What Is Torture?

Provide an assortment of definitions

-Torture comes from the Latin “torquere”, to twist

  • There is no single precise definition of what constitutes as Torture, which of course is part of the problem, but this does not mean as David.P Gushee states that the term is “infinitely elastic”
  • For our own purposes in regards to legality, it is useful to look at International Agreements that deal with Torture to provide us with some basic groundwork
  • Article 5,Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948,”no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel inhuman, or degrading or inhumane treatment”
  • Art 17, The Third Geneva Convention 1949 claims that “no mental or physical torture ..may be inflicted on prisoners of war.

Article 1 states;

  • For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions”

Article 2

Any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is an offence to human dignity and shall be condemned as a denial of the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 3

No State may permit or tolerate torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Exceptional circumstances such as a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked as a justification of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 4

Each State shall, in accordance with the provisions of this Declaration, take effective measures to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment from being practised within its jurisdiction."

Torture is prohibited under a number of international treaties

Art 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Art 7 and 10(1) of the International Covenant on Civil Rights and Political Rights

Art 3 of the ECHR

  • -Geneva Convention
  • - It hold “nonderogable status” in human rights law- no circumstance is it permissible as article 2(“) of the UN convention against torture states;

“No exceptional circumstance whatsoever, whether a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture”

=Absolute prohibition -amnesty quote

  • -Also regarded as a war crime under international humanitarian law and as a crime against humanity when uintegrated into a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.
  • -Explain how too narrow or too broad a definition can potentially harm our efforts in minimising this practice?
  • -Where do we draw the line?

“...but let's turn to sleep deprivation and a slap in the face. Do these belong in the same torture category as bodily amputations and sexual assaults?” Bentham,p79

Mark Bowden “torture lite”

“sleep deprivation, exposure to heat or cold, the use of drugs to cause confusions, rough treatment (slapping, shoving or shaking),forcing a prisoner to stand for days at a time or sit in uncomfortable positions, and playing on his fears for himself and his family. Although excruciating for the victim, these tactics generally leave no permanent marks and do no lasting physical harm”

What are states duties in regards to Torture?

This argument is particularly relevant to our time given the Bush Administration's handling of prisoners of war during the Iraq Regime Change and many are of the opinion that the administration as chipping away at the threshold and the prohibition and outright ban on torture and have attempted to draw a line closer and closer to the boundary line that separates aggressive interrogation from torture, using what Mark Bowden describes as “torture lite” and “enhanced interrogation techniques”, these include a variety of inhumane treatments to torment a the victim into confessing intelligence or what the CIA would call “breaking in the prisoner”.

Among these approved interrogatory measures include forced nakedness and masturbation, withdrawal of food,sensory deprivation,hooding,use of guard dogs to threaten, sleep adjustment and deprivation, exposure to severe heat and cold surroundings and threatened executions the most famous of course being infamous “waterboading technique” which apparently simulates the feeling of drowning, which has been described as many as an utterly terrifying act. The list is exhaustive with each “technique” more incriminating than the last.

Unlawful combatants- not the prisoners of war and thus not extended the rights and civil liberties of prisoners of war under the CAT.As David P. Gushee states;

“By definition torture and the applicability of civil liberties narrowly- and “military necessity” in the War on Terror broadly- the U.S. government has made official room for deeply questionable acts against legally defenceless detainess”( p,78)

  1. What Has History Taught Us About Torture?

-Go through the history of torture in the medieval times- the practices, what was used and what kind of results it yielded before it was outlawed

- Doesn't hone investigative skills

-Doesn't produce good results- Former head of CIA quote

- Has a habit of spreading

-Usually towards minorities and political dissidents

-Leaves permanent mental and physical scarring

-Algier- “Dirty War”

- Early Catholicism

-Ireland v UK



-Mark Osiel art.

-John Langsbein Art.

- Israeli Supreme Court

-Pinochet Chile

  • ...”Torture has scarcely been universally classified as manifestly fact that practice itself was once integral to the criminal procedures, enshrined within and regulated by medieval rules of evidence. It is only during the late twentieth century, in part b because of the widespread ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture, that the practice came to be generally regarded as among the few crimes to which the label “manifestly illegal could be unequivocally applied”- Mark Osiel, “The Mental State of Torturers” p130

  • “The European law of torture was suffused with the spirit of safeguard, yet it was never able to correct for the fundamental unreliability of coerced evidence” p101 John H.Langbein,`”The Legal History of Torture”

  • “There is, however no escape from the reality that not every suspect is guilty, and that, for many reasons, information extracted under torture comes with no guarantee of reliability. Terrorists willing to die for their cause would also be willing to plant false tales under torture” John H.Langbein p101 ”The Legal History of Torture”

  • “Another insight from history is the danger that, once legitimated, torture could develop a constituency with a vested interest in perpetuating it. We have seen in recent years how the enterprise of enforcing the drug laws in the United States has made law enforcement agencies as dependant on resulting forfeitures as the junkies are on the dope” p 101 John H Langbein, “The Legal History of Torture”

  • Sir James Fitzjames Stephen- “It is far pleasanter to sit comfortably in the shade rubbing red pepper into some poor devil's eyes than to go about in the sun hunting up evidence”

Case Law- Torture Has Been Used Over The Last Century Even In Stable Democracies.

  • R v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, Ex p Pinochet Ugarte (No 3) [2000] 1 AC 147,

-Committed widespread and systematic torture in able to control to obtain control by using those means for as long as possible

  • Ireland V UK

-British authorities beat Irish Republican prisoners of war with fists and batons.

-Forced detainees to stand for long hours

-Placed black hoods over their heads

-Deprivation of food and sleep

-Continuous exposure to white noise

-The European Commision of Human Rights found that these practices , used together, amounted to torture but ECHR reversed these appeals.

-ECHR ruled that these practices were not “torture” but did fall under the definition of “inhumane or degrading “treatment.

-Significant Criticism from Human rights groups

-Remains a significant precedent.

  • Israeli Supreme Court

-Israeli's General Security services used similar methods such as shaking, sleep deprivation and forcing suspects to wait in “stress positions” when interrogated.

-When the GSS received criticism from Human rights groups the GSS replied that the tactics they employed were a necessary defence against torture and protection of national security.

-Israeli Supreme Court rejected this defence in 1999

- Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v Israel (1999) 7 BHRC 31, para 39:

"Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the rule of law and recognition of an individual's liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and its strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties."

  • Argentina's Dirty War

  • The case of Shakal Libby

The case that was put forth for the Iraq war was obtained from torture and was later deemed to be untrue, isn't this a strong enough argument to suggest that this isn't working?

  • Saudi Arabia case- Sandi Mitchell

“You'll say whatever your torturer wants you to say because all you want is the torment to stop to be able to sleep, and if it means your going to die because of what you said, then dying becomes preferable to would rather to lie down and die than to continue with the pain that is being inflicted on you”(Dispatches,2004)

  1. Two Polar Opposite Views Seem To Split Theorist And Critics.

We are clearly not a community of unity on the subject as Lord Brown states;

“Torture is an unqualified evil. It can never be justified. Rather it must always be punished. So much is not in doubt. It is proclaimed by the Convention against Torture and many other international instruments and now too by section134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. But torture may on occasion yield up information capable of saving lives, perhaps many lives, and the question then inescapably arises: what use can be made of this information? Unswerving logic might suggest that no use whatever should be made of it: a revulsion against torture and an anxiety to discourage rather than condone it perhaps dictate that it be ignored: the ticking bomb must be allowed to tick on. But there are powerful countervailing arguments too: torture cannot be undone and the greater public good thus lies in making some use at least of the information obtained, whether to avert public danger or to bring the guilty to justice.”

First Strand

Deontological Standpoint

  • Even in the old testament, there were prohibitions against punishment which humiliated or degraded those receiving it:

    "He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes." (Deuteronomy 25:3)

  • The prohibition on torture has been understood as a both a matter of fundamental human right and a basic civil liberty. Is its most basic terms, no human being may be tortured, and this is governed by various International Treaties, particularly the Geneva Convention as was outlined earlier in this journal.

  • Human Rights

  • “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or pounshiment”( UN General Assembly, 1948)- thus the prohibition on torture has universal coverage under International Law.

  • It has now been recognised as a norm of jus cogens; “norms of international law recognised by the international community as being peremptory in character” (Responding yto Terrorism:political, philosophical and legal perspectives;  By Robert Imre, T. Brian Mooney, Benjamin Clarke,p90)

  • Art 3- governs in absolute terms- no derogation is permitted- even if it is in the most acute situations of crisis does it permit this rule to be broken.

  • ECHR- has taken a unique approach in comparison to other global jurisdictions and is unrivalled in terms of case law on the matter.

  • Art 3 - language too broad or too loose?

Its “laconic” style as Yutaka Arai-Yokai states, “leaves open a number of definitional elements of torture or other forms of ill-treatment”(“Grading Scale of Degradation: Identifying the Threshold of Gegrading treatment or Punishment under Art 5 ECHR,Netherlands Quarterly on Human Rights 21,2003,p388)

As Fionnula Ni Aolan states;

“The looseness of the drafting has left maximum plastically to the this context the court has exploited the political capacity of European states to absorb a shifting and evolving standard for democratic states”(Fionnuala Ni Aolain, “The European Convention on Human Rights an”d its prohibition on Torture”,p225)

-The ECHR has shown a weak view on punishing those who torture, appearing to have the same states before the courts for violations again and again and failing to punish.

  • “To legally entertain the political reality that systematic human rights' violations have been a feature of Western European states would open up a Pandora's Box, requiring assessment of whether there is a genuine commitment to Human Rights by leading democratic states. This is a place where the court( as yet) has not been prepared to go”(P224,Fionnula Ni Aolain)

  • Civil Liberties- What is a civil liberty? Define?

  • Following world war 2, there has become an immense increase in the talk of rights. The number of civil liberites extended seems to grow in number each year.We are living in an era of” rights” year by year more and more cases come before the cours making moral claims and arguments in terms of rights.

  • As Mirko Bagaric states;

  • “The influence of rights- based theories is doemonstated by the sheer number of international human rights instruments that most nations have signed or ratified.” P23 Troture :when the unthinkable is morally permissible. Mirko Bagaric, Julie Clarke

  • The prohibition on torture is rooted in the birth of liberalism and democratic rights

  • Michael Ignatieff;

  • “liberal democracy stands against any unlimited use of public authority against human beings, and torture is the most unlimited , most unbridled form of power that one person can exercise against another”( Michael Ignatieff “Evil Under Interrogation” Financial Times,May 15 2004)

  • These people use torture as an effective means of gathering information.bring in some case law to prove otherwise.On the basis that it is human nation to avoid experiencing intense and prolonged pain.Dershowtiz uses the example the a german case where an eleven year old boy is kidnapped for three days and the police had in custody a man who they were conviced had orchestrated this crime and was aware of his whereabouts.

  • Kantism

  • “Slippery slope” argument

  • The harms of torture are much greater than they seem and the benefits are much smaller than one would expect.

  • Has a habit of spreading-

  • “Once torture has become acclimatised in a legal system it spreads like an infectious disease, hardening and brutalising those who have become accustomed to its use”( Holdsworth, A History of English Law, vol v, p 194.)

  • John McCain-military view

  • Barbara Hudson-social-criminological view

  • Slavoj Zizek

  • Jeff Jacoby- journalist view

  • S.Levinson-legal theorist view

  • A.Dorfman

  • Henry Shue

Begins his essay by looking at the classic just war rules(jus in bello) distinction between combatant and non-combatant and this that torture of non combatants can never be legally justifiable in any case.

  • Human rights pioneers

  • It is a very effective recruiting tool for terrorist groups- if people are seeing their own citizens being tortured by an outside body they sense of outrage will compel more to join insurgents.

  • In some ways this will also “harden the resolve” of the terrorist (Carl Levin, Panorama “License to Torture”)

  • Former CIA agents support the fact that other methods of interrogation are more like to yield reliable results, such as building a relationship with the terrorist, deception...”we need to be smarter not harsher”

  • Makes the intelligence services lazy; as Karen J Grenber states;

  • “Legal acceptance of torture, finally creates a perverse incentive for interrogators. If they are not allowed to torture suspects, interrogators have an incentive to search for evidence elsewhere or to develop alternative information-extracting skills. If Torture is allowed , by contrast, interrogators will have less motivation to develop more refined and conceivably more effective methods of seeking and establishing the truth”( The torture debate in America By Karen J. Greenber, p123)

-Legalisation effectively discourages interrogators from seeking out better and more reliable evidence sources and honing their investigatory skills.

  • English Law Lords even contest its use- see Lord Hoffman and Lord Scott

  • “Torture is not acceptable. This is a bedrock moral principle in this country. For centuries the common law has set its face against torture”- Lord Nicholls,Judgments - A (FC) and others (FC) (Appellants) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent) (2004)A and others (Appellants) (FC) and others v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent)

  • Deontolgical view- is a “form of moral laziness One repairs to a code rather than grappling with a terrible moral dilemma” p88

  • `Kant- “...a deontological moral constraint is one that may never be violated, be the consequences as they may”

  • B.Hudson - “Torture is completely incompatible with the liberal society's image of itself”


  • “Torture ,in short, is a microcosm, raised to the highest level of intensity, of the tyrannical political relationships and liberalism hates the most. Liberalism incorporates a vision of engaged, active human beings possessing an inherent dignity regardless of their social situation. The victim of torture is in every respect the opposite of this vision. The torture victim is isolated and reduced instead of engaged and enlarged, terrified instead of active, humiliated instead of dignified.”(Liberalism,torture and the ticking bomb, David Luben)

Second Strand


John Stuart Mill coined the term- the greater good

  • Ticking bomb- A. Dershowitz

  • Argues that we need to legalise torture in order to practice legal normality. He does make it clear that his mormative stance is adverse to torture but that in light of continuing use and widespread violations he believes it is necessary to debate the norms surrounding its use.

  • The Crux of his argument lies on basic notions of “necessity”, this need “exists so as to fill the grey area not covered by legislative and judicial procedures”(War Torture and Terrorism: Rethinking the Rules od International Security, Caroline Kennedy-Pipe p,19)

  • He purports leaving torture undefined is a dangerous measure and thuis the discretion to use torture becomes open-ended and rests rather on moral-decision making capabilities.

  • To use an outright legal ban Dershowitz claims blurs the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

  • He believes the answer lies in handing over the decisions to the heart of democratic society, the judiciary, who he claims should evaluate each case on their facts and impose a legal framework of checks to propose a normative criterion for its international use.

  • “...a discussion of options within the framework of the two dominant and competing moral philosophies of modernity: deontology and utilitarianism. The deontologist says “never” -one is never permitted to use another human being as a means rather than an end in himself. The utilitarian says that the greatest good for the greatest number will be served by torturing the creep and saving the school children. So where do you stand-with Kant or with Bentham?”- “Reflection on the problem of Dirty Hands, Bentham p 78

  • “Neccessity as a justification derives from consequential moral theories, according to which wrongful actions may be morally deemed by the goodness of their consequences( Miriam Gur-Aye,” Cant the War on Terror justify the use of force in Interrogations”, p191)

  • “Rare cases make bad law”- H. Shue

“Now the torturer is not a cruel man...the torturer is a conscientious public servant, heroic the way that New York fire fighters were heroic, willing to do desperate things only because the plight is desperate and so many lives are weighing on the suffering servant's conscience. The time bomb clinches the great divorce between torture and cruelty; it placates liberals, who put cruelty first, But, I wish to argue, it placates them with fictions(david Luben Liberalism,Torture and the Ticking Bomb p6) Intervention, terrorism, and torture: contemporary challenges to just war theory By Steven Lee

Need to be careful because this analogy as torture is now always being argued on these terms.

  • Has this ever occurred? Is the question asked by Clive Staffford Smith, the first British defence attorney representing the victims of Abu Ghairb,”Theory is one thing-reality is another, especially if you don't know if the person you have captured is guilty”(Dispatches-“Is Torture a good idea?” Channel 4)

  • Jean Bethke Elshtain

  • Pioneers of national security

  • Torture warrants

  • “...stunningly bad idea”... “ Sanctioning torture through torture warrants partakes of the same moralistic-legalism as the statesperson who values his pure conscience above all else and who will not violate amoral norm under any circumstances. We cannot- and should not-insulate political and military leaders form the often harsh demands of necessity by up-ending moral universe: that which is rightly taboo now becomes just another piece of armamentarium of the state”-Bentham p84

  • “While perhaps attractive to those not versed in International law, the Dershowitz thesis can be easily disassembled upon perusal of a basic textbook in public international law. The Thesis requires a narrow view of the rule of law, namely one that excludes the obligations of states under international human rights law.”(As before Responding to Terrorism. P93)

  • “A certain ascetism is required for those who may be required, in a dangerous or extreme situation, to temporarily override a general prohibition .They should not seek to legalize it. They should not aim to normalize it. And they should not write elaborate justifications of it, as if there were a tick-list one can go down and , if a sufficient number of ticks appears, one is given leave to torture” Bentham p84

  • Trial of Guy Fawkes (1934), pp 90-92

  • Dick Cheney

  • Michael Ignatieff;

  • “Suspending rights is a lesser evil solutions, but it compromises the status of human rights as a set of unchanging benchmarks. Once you admit that human rights can be suspended in times of emergency, you are accepting that human rights are not a system of indivisible absolutes; their application requires balancing liberty and necessity, pure principles and prudence” p.9

  • Dirty Hands- Michael Walzer

  • “One begins with a rule governed activity. There may be situations that were not anticipated and that are so serious, so dire in their potential consequences, they may require over-riding the rule. The rule in question is not thereby “set aside canceller or annulled” One is obliged to acknowledge violation of the rule and to offer reasons why, in this circumstance, the rule was temporarily overridden. This overriding of a rule should not be easy: it should in fact, be in extremis, or close to it. And one overrides the rule of recognition that a moral wrong does not make a “right” but it might bring about a “less bad” or “more just” outcome”-Bentham p83

  • “Information - the gathering of intelligence - is a crucial weapon in the battle by democracies against international terrorism”

National security

It is useful when looking at this issue to look at the writing of Cass R Sunstein; who outlines what he calls the balancing approach between national security and civil liberty as he describes as an “optimanl tradeoff” Per se that as the magnitude of the threat increases, the argument for intruding civil liberities also increases( Laws of Fear: beyond the precautionary principle,217)

“This approach to the relationship to the relationship between liberty and security is standard and intuitive, and something like it seems to me correct.But it is not without complcaiotns.There might for example, a “core” of rights into which the government cannot intrufe and for which balkancing is inappropriate.Consider Torture.”

The lesser evil?

Oren gross

Empirical Data

  • “Currently nearly half say the use of torture under circumstances is often (15%) or sometimes (34%) justified about the same proportion believes that the torture of supported terrorists is rarely (22%) or never 25%””The Pew Research centre”

  • Oonagh Hathaway article.

Establish my own argument taking into accounts both sides of the discussion.

  • Make clear that both provide too narrow a view on the current situation.

  • “The burden of my argument is that, while deontology makes something called “torture” impossible, utilitarianism makes it too easy and too tempting”- (Reflection on the Problem of Dirty hands, Bentham,p79)

  • What are the current realities of the current day situation?

  • “When the USA makes its case for Torture, they call it coercion of course, they talk about terrorist masterminds that have information that will safe lives. But that's not the sordid reality of Guantanamo Bay. More often were talking about yogurt sellers, chauffeurs, people who were caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time” (Clive Stafford Smith,”Dispatches” “Is torture a good idea?”)

  • Guantanamo Bay is a clear violation of Human Right and fundamental civil liberties, not just the right to not be tortured but also infringes on the right to a fair trial. Goes against a very basic legal principle that you are innocent until proven guilty but these people are detained on mere suspicion. The prisoners or “illegal combatants” as the Bush Administration likes to call them, are detained for up to three years, there needs to be time constraints. Also the mental and physical anguish is proven to drive most of the victims to the point of insanity, how are these people then going to be able to achieve justice in a court of law when they are set free?

  • “A lifetime of incarceration on the basis of secret intelligence alone is completely unacceptable for long-term detention...this is completely the wrong way to show that we care about democracy and Human rights”(Shami Chakrabati, director of the civil rights group “Liberty")

  • State that under no circumstance should the prohibition be looked at again or exceptions in anyway should not be incorporated but that it is simply not enough to say “no I don't agree” because it is not pro-active, it is not forward-thinking, it is not saving anyone. Blind and ignorant denial to except that we need to look at torture in this new era post 9/11. We cannot hide away from the implications that will occur. We need practical solutions.

  • Address the fact that implementing it into International Laws could lead to the practice of torture being manipulated and spreading further-

  •   “Torture, one of most evil practices known to man, is resorted to for a variety of purposes and it may help to identify them to put this case into its historical context. The lesson of history is that, when the law is not there to keep watch over it, the practice is always at risk of being resorted to in one form or another by the executive branch of government. The temptation to use it in times of emergency will be controlled by the law wherever the rule of law is allowed to operate. But where the rule of law is absent, or is reduced to a mere form of words to which those in authority pay no more than lip service, the temptation to use torture is unrestrained”(Lord Hope)

  • Therefore my viewpoint stands in the middle of both schools of thought, I don't believe that torture is ever reasonable but it is too widespread for it ever to be realistically abolished. Therefore we should be dividing our opinions and bickering over who is right but what we can all do together to minimise and stop it spreading and this calls for pragmatic conversations, not ones based on “hypothetical bombs”, but a look at our reality.

  • “Lesser evils”-Michael Ignatieff

  • “A.Sharon”

  • B.Hudson Cosmo-politics and her ides on “Justice to the stranger”-developing a sense of empathy for the stranger- how we respond the really dangerous people.

  • International law needs to develop-“White man's justice”-entrenched in Western European notions of accountability.

  • Treaties establish the basic rule that “the power have the power”

  • Pathos no logos-playing on emotions in a hypothetical case is dangerous water.

  • The hypothesis presented is so remote a possibility that it is not even worthy of consideration. It relies on a number of certainties-that officials would know the whereabouts of a bomb, have a detainee who knows of the whereabouts of the bomb, know that detainee has sufficient information at his disposal to disarm the bomb, and know that the detainee well respond to torture by releasing this information.

5. What are the practical solutions?

- Although I would have taken to absolutist view since reading around the subject I have begun to come to the conclusion that the deontological view is not giving us any answers?

  • “When you put a microscope above the word torture and look through it, you see a teeming mess of possibilities, prohibitions, complexities, legalities, and ethical perils. It follows that when human rights groups label “unpleasant and disadvantageous treatment of any kind”, they do a disservice to a complexity of the matter; they fail to discriminate between cases; they embrace a moralistic “code fetishism” that flies in the face f the harsh and dangerous realities of the world in which we found ourselves and , ironically, by failing to distinguish between sleep deprivation and amputation of burning or some other horror, they elevate the former and diminish the latter”- Bentham p89

-Jessica Montell- Human rights executive director in Jerusalem

- Lord Nicholls -Look at torture in terms of the fact that evidence procured under torture is illegally obtained and thus in principle is not legally permissible before the courts=

  • “Countering international terrorism calls for a flow of information between the security services of many countries. Fragments of information, acquired from various sources, can be pieced together to form a valuable picture, enabling governments of threatened countries to take preventative steps. What should the security services and the police and other executive agencies of this country do if they know or suspect information received by them from overseas is the product of torture? Should they discard this information as 'tainted', and decline to use it lest its use by them be regarded as condoning the horrific means by which the information was obtained?”

-Recognise the point that it can never be a part of customary international law, it would be become normal, institutionalised. This is not what we want

- But simply just saying no and then going about our ordinary lives oblivious of the suffering that is happening in dark cellars is in a way no confronting the issue. In my view just to say this is nearly as bad as those who are ignoring the issue because we are helping no one.

- Need to also take into account that the cost of torture is immense-to keep these people detained for long period of time costs a lot of money.

-Accountability and Culpability- President Obama has closed the door-“can of worms”

- As the Nuremburg Principles set out it is not enough to say “I was just following orders”- each person is faced with a moral dilemma and they have a duty to refuse to participate in illegal acts even if given orders to do so. That is to protect “national security”

  • “There is no reason to think these are isolated cases. In fact, where torture by military personnel occurs today, there is reason to believe that perpetrators continue to think their conduct justified or excused, in ways that courts should acknowledge. They generally believe their legal defence to rest on obedience to superior orders and likely judicial acknowledgment of the threat that their country's security posed by violent opponents” Mark Osiel, “The Mental State of Torturers” p130

-Panorama “License to Torture” looks into the concept of criminal accountability for the cases in Abu Ghairb and Guantanamo Bay and asks where it should lie, with the lawyers who re-sculpted the meaning of torture in its broadest sense? The president and Rumsfeld who authorized the use of “enhanced techniques “or the perpetrators themselves?

“Torture has always been bound up with the military coinquest, royal reveng,dictatorial terror, forced confessions and the repression of dissident belief- a veritable catalogue of the evils of abdsolutist government that liberalism abhors”(Liberalsim, Torture and the Ticking Bomb,)

-Where do we draw the line?

-What are the Wider Implications-

  • “The domination effected by torture plays out in several ways. Intense pain warps and destroys human perception and personality. Even more, torture uses inverts and destroys the trappings of civilisation. Thus torture makes the law, using punishment to gather evidence to justify the punishment already inflicted, rather than using evidence already gathered to justify punishment. When torture becomes an official policy , the victim's suffering and pain lose legal relevance, and they become further isolated just when the most need the law's protections”( John T.Parry “Escalation and Neccessity, Defining Torture at Home and Abroad p17)

Concluding Points

-Referring to what I've learnt during my research

- Can we ever abolish it?

- Maybe it's more realistic to look towards minimising it? Broken collective moral compass?

-It goes against everything that we stand for in a democratic society-innocent until proven guilty, due process, right to a fair trial by a jury of peers, no cruel punishment...the foundations on which our justice system was founded.

- In a democracy no one is above the law, not even the Government. The government is created to protect its citizens and uphold human rights not trample all over civil liberties and engage in placing the entire justice system into disrepute.

- Even in the ticking bomb scenario it is very unlikely that will obtain useful intelligence so doesn't this mean we should just eradicate the idea of torture?

-Yields inaccurate information. Under extreme pressure or stress the human body begins to shut down, followed by the mind. Take water boarding as an example; when the victim is denied a chance to breathe, the flow of oxygen to the brain is restricted, simulated drowning.Inhibiting the ability to think.

-I believe that has become too systematic and widespread that it can never be abolished, we may need to start gathering empirical data on how successful it is, to prove to certain states that this is not a good solid form of intelligence gathering and that it undermines the entire evidence procedures and completely flies in the face of everything that democracy stands for.

- Were asking these questions, now we just need to find the answers

“This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation. Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of their nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it. Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community….” “(Lord Hoffman).

We need a middle ground, because just turning our cheek towards these extremists is not achieving much, if anything they will be more than happy to slap it.